I spent the weekend of April 27 / 28, 2013 in my ancestral village in Thanjavur District of Tamil Nadu, South India. On Monday evening, I had occasion to understand the ceremony of TheeMudhi. Literally Fire- Walking. Or walking across on flaming hot coal embers.
About 50 villagers took part and I had occasion to understand the mode of preparations for the same.
About a month before the event date, the villagers who are registered for the event start training. The training consists of meeting the village temple and taking some solemn vows. Besides invoking the powers to be in the Goddess, they also take vows on why they are doing it. A sick child, a troubled relationship, dropping yields in the farm…whatever troubles them and they are seeking relief from. They then tie a string in their hands to remind them of the vows they have taken.
During the intervening period they do not wear footwear and go everywhere barefoot. They also sleep on the bare floor and observe celibacy. They eat only one meal a day. They also do not leave the village and go elsewhere and take work.
On the big day, from morning they observe contemplative silence and mentally strengthen themselves for the task on hand. By evening they all assemble and take a bath in the village pond. Thus purified they wear yellow cloth and head straight across to the 20 feet long pit filled with flaming hot coal embers.
Many women walk across carrying their children on their shoulders. Many men walk across bearing a Kavadi on themselves.
After walking briskly across they head to the pit that is filled with water and milk. They cool their feet and then go and pay respects to the Goddess Kaliamman.
Always interested in the medical aspect of things, I had occasion to talk to the village doctor Dr Ramdas who confirmed that there have been no reported cases of burns at all.
Many of you may wonder what does this have to do with a running blog and why am I posting this here.
Actually if you ponder over it, the preparation for any feat beyond what is considered human endurance is the same.
In that sense runners who register for an event also undergo very similar training.
After registering for an event, runners too start observing all kinds of abstinence’s. Many start watching their weight. The annual 12 Week Weight Loss Challenge that I run bears adequate testimony to this fact. Many give up late nights and the consequent hedonism that it involves. Many curb travel plans and prefer to stay close to home so that their rest and food habits are not rendered awry. In order to invoke superior spiritual powers, many runners take up charitable causes to power their runs. They take vows of collection of a certain sum for their favorite causes..be it cancer eradication, education of the girl child..autism or something similar.
Coming to the day of the run, the runners is as contemplative as the villager planning to walk the 20 feet. Crossing the 21kms or the 42 kms is as serious a business as walking across the 20 feet on hot coals. Once he finishes the event he too cools his internals by hydration / glycogen replenishment like the villager who cools his feet in milk diluted with water.
And then while the villager proceeds with gratitude to his Goddess for making the impossible, possible, the runner whips out his smartphone and texts his running guru, spouse, running group friends in a expression of gratitude for making the ..well impossible, possible.
And thus the process of achieving feats of human endurance bordering on the impossible are the same.
If a simple villager can do it with a training process that has stood the tests of time. then YOU TOO dear runner CAN follow the well defined training process and RUN and endurance event.